Palau Güell

Gaudi designed the Güell Palace for Eusebi Güell and his family early in his career – 1886-90 – and it’s more obviously inspired by both Gothic and Moorish architectural forms than his more famous buildings.

Except for the chimney pots (above) of course!

At the front are two giant parabolic arches with wonderfully intricate forged ironwork. The enormous central space of the house serves as a light well: here’s a view looking up from the piano nobile:

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Some elements are distinctly off-putting to the culturally Protestant northern European mind: i.e. the private chapel in the living room (as with the Casa Batllo), and the darkness and secrecy of the living space. So, the private chapel in a city with countless religious institutions was bizarre to me; it implied either domestic confinement (particularly for daughters) – as if an outside visit even to a church was discouraged – and/or very frequent religious observance. As for the secrecy: there are tucked-away windows which permit the viewer to see and not be seen; even the largest windows at the front have pillars and recesses where you can conceal yourself.

It was something of a relief to escape the confinement of the interior and reach the roof terrace with its playful chimneys. It was just a reminder that Spanish buildings have a cultural and historical background that can throw up surprises.

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